Iran booked their place in the Round of 16 of the U-17 finals in UAE after a 1-0 win over Austria in Al Ain saw them finish second in Group E. Their opponent in the first knockout round will be none other than Nigeria, who return to their home-base in the desert after topping their section. Austria and Canada are both eliminated after the night’s results, while Argentina win Group E and move on the next stage.
Playing in their first game at a new venue, Iran and Austria didn’t look uncomfortable at all in the early minutes from the Khalifa Bin Zayed Stadium. After 16 minutes, an Austrian corner-kick was headed powerfully by David Domej from six yards out. The effort went just over the bar and the no-nonsense captain simply turned around and ran back to his defensive post.
Three minutes later and it became clear that the Europeans' most dangerous weapon was the set-piece. Adrian Grbic looked like he would float in a cross from 25 yards out, but he went for goal with his free-kick instead. It had Mahdi Amini beaten at his near post, but it slammed off the crossbar rather than ending up in the back of the net.
There was a similar free-kick up the other end in the 27th minute, but Ali Hazimi’s effort could only fly up and over the bar. It was a hint of things to come, however, as the Iranians took the lead in the 36th minute. Yousef Seyyedi had nowhere to go, with his back to the goal and swarmed by defenders, but his quick turn left Dominik Baumgartner for dead. He zipped past two more Austrians before toe-poking home from close range.
Daniel Ripic pulled off some dazzling moves in the Iranian penalty area as the Austrians – needing a win – pushed for an eqauliser in the second half. The Red Bull Salzburg man turned, swiveled and shimmied, and looked to be dragged down in the area near the hour mark. But the Bolivian referee waved away his protests dismissively.
The Austrians were pressing hard at this point and in the 66th minute Michael Endlicher, on as a substitute, fired a wicked shot in from the edge of the box that had Amini scrambling. The more the Europeans pressed, the more they were exposed, and twice in the last quarter-hour Amir Mazloum threatened to extend Iran's lead on the break.
In the end, the 1-0 result was enough to see Iran through behind Argentina in Group E, while Canada and Austria board the early flights home from UAE 2013.